The historic bout comes after the ban on facial hair by England Boxing was overturned in 2018. The ban meant practicing Sikhs were unable to pursue winning national titles, or building up amateur experience helpful for professional boxing. following dialogue with Sikh organisations such as Lions MMA, Budha Dal and Sikh PA, as well as […]
The historic bout comes after the ban on facial hair by England Boxing was overturned in 2018. The ban meant practicing Sikhs were unable to pursue winning national titles, or building up amateur experience helpful for professional boxing. following dialogue with Sikh organisations such as Lions MMA, Budha Dal and Sikh PA, as well as individuals such as Dr Harbir Singh and lawyer and Sikh educator Amandeep Singh.
The end of the ban came into effect on June 1st last year but due to the amateur boxing season’s schedule, the first Sikh Amritdhari competitors will box this February. An Amritdhari Sikh is one that has been initiated into the Khalsa, the collective army of initiated Sikhs, who commit to following a Sikh way of life, being ambassadors of compassion, justice, courage and tolerance. The Khalsa also agree to a code of conduct which includes not cutting hair, leading to boxing’s ban on beards conflicting with Sikh practice.
Charanpal Singh began training in boxing 18 months ago and was soon encouraged by his coaches at Warley ABC, a well established amateur boxing club, to compete in official competition. Although the beard ban was not going to affect the baby-faced teenager, Charanpal Singh would not compete knowing his ambitions in official amateur competition would be curtailed when his beard grew. That was until the beard ban was overturned eight months ago.
‘It wasn’t something I had to think about, I wasn’t going to change myself or the principles of Sikhi by removing Kes (unshorn hair). My Kes is a part of who I am, as an Amritdhari Sikh.
‘Some boxers mentioned that my beard hasn’t fully grown, so why not just fight. I explained to them it’s not about how much beard a person has, it’s about the removal of hair , which I would never support.
‘The end of the beard ban means I can add boxing to my Sikhi discipline. My Sikhi requires me to have a healthy lifestyle to be disciplined in both physical and mental wellbeing. It enables me to feel self-confident. I believe it is about self-care and compassion and promotes the importance for a Sikh being a protector of others (sant and solider). Both work together’ said Charanpal Singh.
Charanpal Singh is just the first, with other Amritdhari Sikhs also set for bouts in 2019, making this a groundbreaking year for both England Boxing and the Sikh community. However, Charanpal Singh is aware his ambitions still come with obstacles, as the beard ban is still in place at international level. Lions MMA, the Sikh ethos mixed-martial-arts organisation that run 11 boxing clubs across the UK, are working towards an official challenge on the international amateur boxing beard ban by the AIBA and also in countries where Sikhs are affected, such as India. Canada is the only other country to have overturned the beard ban in official amateur boxing after Ontario flyweight champion Pardeep Singh Nagra fought it in 1999, leading to a court battle and rule change in 2001.
Charanpal Singh said of his ambitions in boxing, ‘I want to have a good, long amateur career to reach the higher amateur ranks. This experience will take me to the next level and when the time is right with a good amateur pedigree, I would like to go into the professional game.
‘The Olympics would be a goal to strive for but until the international beard ban is lifted, this ambition will have to wait.’